The Lake Manawa State Park campground has been closed through August due to safety concerns that the levee holding the Missouri River back will not withstand the pressure over the expected eight weeks of flooding. The park will remain open for day use until there is direct evidence the levee will not hold.
"If the levee were to breech, there would be little time to evacuate the campers so we decided to take the cautious approach and close the campground," said Kevin Szcodronski, chief of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources State Parks Bureau.
Szcodronski said the DNR is in the process of notifying campers holding the 125 reservations at Lake Manawa with arrivals between Tuesday and Aug. 31 of its closure and refunding their money. Lake Manawa has 36 electric and 35 non electric campsites.
Lake Manawa is the third state park that will be impacted by the Missouri River. The DNR has closed Wilson Island, also in Pottawattamie County, and Lewis and Clark State Park in Monona County.
Nearby state parks Waubonsie, Viking Lake, Lake Anita, Prairie Rose, Stone and Black Hawk will likely see increases in attendance due to the park closures.
"The domino effect will be that other nearby parks will likely absorb campers who would normally be going to one of the closed parks that will in turn make it more difficult to find a campsite for the rest of this summer and likely into 2012," Szcodronski said. "Campers should also consider one of our fine county parks in the area."
Szcodronski said the three popular parks draw about 66,000 campers per year. Lake Manawa State Park hosts an estimated 1.5 million park visits per year, the highest total in the Iowa state park system.
Sidebar: Closed Parks Produce No Revenue
Even when money is not tight, every bit counts in state parks, but when budgets are thread bare and three popular and busy state parks are closed for the season that makes a bad situation worse.
"When we lose revenue from three of our more popular and well attended parks, it has an impact on our bottom line in a time when we have no wiggle room left on the balance sheet," said Kevin Szcodronski, chief of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources State Parks Bureau.
The loss of revenue generated from these campgrounds and shelter rentals will be felt throughout the state park system.
Szcodronski said all staff have been evacuated from the housing within the parks and equipment has been moved to other locations. The impact long-term flooding has on the parks is unknown.
"Our parks are no different than the towns that are experiencing major impacts from the flooding Missouri River," he said. "We have similar infrastructure with the wastewater and drinking water systems, we have roads, electrical networks and heavy equipment that we are responsible for in additional to the daily activities to keeping a park running properly."
Clean up will take months and determining the impact from extended flood waters has on trees, pumps, electrical sites and buildings may take longer."There are a lot of stories of personal devastation that make our problems seem trivial, but on the same token, our parks are an important part of local communities and serve an important role in citizens lives," Szcodronski said.